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Truex takes a convincing win on a day history is made at Martinsville

Truex takes a convincing win on a day history is made at Martinsville

NASCAR Cup Series Race Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Martinsville, VA, June 10/20 (GRW): On a day when his Joe Gibbs teammates struggled, Martin Truex came to the fore in the second half of the race here, leading the final 131 laps of the 500-lap event to take the win. The three Penske drivers – Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano -- came in two-three-four behind him, but the win was all Truex’. If he can keep up this kind of performance, he may well be on his way to another series championship.

This race was a continuation of its long continuous history, given that a ‘Strictly Stock’ car race was run here in 1949 and every year since, making it the longest running NASCAR race venue of all. This year was set to go down in its history as the first time ever the race had been run as a night race under artificial lights.

But, this time, external events had overtaken things and this date in history will go down in NASCAR’s history books for other reasons. Only a few days previously an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, was killed by police in Minnesota and, as a result there had been widespread demonstrations demanding justice and an end to systemic racism.

This movement reached NASCAR last Sunday before the Atlanta race when its president Steve Phelps said, “The Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better.”

PHOTO BLM 43 b 2 aDarrel Wallace Jr. in the No. 43 #BLACKLIVESMATTER Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet (RPM photo)

Now, just three days later, the Richard Petty Motorsports car, which is driven by Darrell Wallace Jr., the only Black driver in this series, showed up in all-black with the main signage showing the hashtag ‘#BLACKLIVESMATTER’ on both rear flanks. For anyone who knows Petty’s political history and who remember his statements rejecting the right of sports players to kneel during the playing of the national anthem, this in itself was revolutionary. For a second race in a row, Wallace lined up for the anthem playing wearing a T-shirt bearing the same message. Historic.

But, even before the pre-race ceremonies began, NASCAR made a much bigger historic shift in its public stance on NASCAR’s long-standing acceptance, even embrace, of the symbols left over from the Civil War and which remain in place to this day as a way of showing continued support for the confederate side in the civil war – a war which was fought to retain the right to own slaves and which spawned the many dreadful years of Jim Crow racist discrimination against America’s Black population. In a statement issued a couple of hours before the race broadcast went on air, NASCAR announced that (finally) it would ban outright the ‘stars and bars flag’ which most people recognize as a racist symbol. “The display of the confederate flag will be prohibited from all NASCAR events and properties.”

This seismic shift in position by NASCAR – remember the display of the confederate flag was not that long ago an accepted, official part of the raceday imagery at the NASCAR races in the deep South – was a dramatic sign that NASCAR had finally got it. No longer could they expect to be accepted as part of the mainstream of American culture and continue to expect support from mainstream commercial sponsors broadcasters and tolerate this obviously racist display of the Civil War flag – a display which had continued to be commonplace in spectator areas of most NASCAR races.

So, once the historic pre-race happenings were broadcast, we had a race.

Based on a draw, Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski started on the front row, but Aric Almirola led at first before Logano took the lead on lap 19 of the 500-lap race. He continued to lead almost every lap right through to the end of the first Stage which came on lap 130.

Even after that, Logano continued to be out front for most of the second Stage – until lap 202, when Jimmie Johnson took over and he led for the next 70 laps right through the end of the second Stage until lap 271. Logano re-reemerged as the leader for the next 23 laps until Ryan Blaney now took over for 22 laps before Logano regained the lead.

It was looking like the race was shaping up as an Penske benefit in some form when Truex, who had been outside the top ten at the end of the second Stage, began to march forward. He was in fifth place when racing resumed after the sixth caution which ended on lap 332. Thirty laps later (remember, these are short laps here) he had worked his way up into third place behind Logano and Keselowski, and by lap 370 he had passed them both to take the lead – a lead he never relinquished after that.

There was one more final caution on lap 398 and he came back out from his pit stop still in the. On the restart, Logano pressed him for a few laps but he gradually fell back and Keselowski got past into second and then Blaney, who had come from a long way back after a pit-lane penalty on lap 332, passed Keselowski for second place. But none of the Penske drivers could challenge Truex during this final stage of the race and Truex had a 5-second lead when he took the checker.

"We’ve been working a long-time on trying to figure this place out and just been chipping away at it," said Truex. "The last couple years we’ve been really strong. 2018 was a heartbreaker at the end of the race there. Last year to get the win and this year, hats off to the guys."

Truex’s good fortune was in stark contrast to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who suffered through a long night of frustration. Kyle Busch went a lap down early and finished 19th, just ahead of teammate Erik Jones. Denny Hamlin – a two-race winner in 2020 – reported problems with his No. 11 Toyota almost immediately after the green flag dropped and went three laps down by night’s end, finishing 24th.

The dominant winner of the race last Sunday at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick, was never much of a factor in today’s race, finishing 15th, a lap down on the race winner.

Click HERE to see the results of the Blue-Emu 500 at Martinsville

The next NASCAR Cup Series race will be run this coming Sunday, June 14, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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